Skip to comments.Judge: NJ Teen Can Sue Former Coach
Posted on 11/25/2005 5:31:17 PM PST by Coleus
A teenager suing a former assistant baseball coach who was convicted of assaulting him will be allowed to seek punitive damages, a judge has ruled.
Former Lakeland Babe Ruth Baseball League Assistant Coach Michael Pollari was convicted of a simple assault charge in municipal court in June 2001, one month after the boy said he was grabbed by his shirt and lifted off the ground.
Kevin Babcock, who was 13 years old at the time, will be allowed to seek punitive damages against Pollari along with compensatory damages if and when the case goes to trial, Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont ruled.
Pollari apologized to the boy and his mother, and quit his volunteer position the night of the incident. He later was sentenced to serve five days on the county sheriff's labor assistance program and a $1,000 fine.
His lawyer told the judge that the former coach is very sorry for his conduct.
``He screwed up. It was as much of a surprise to him as it was to Kevin and to Kevin's mother,'' lawyer Adam Kenny said. ``He lost his temper for a regrettable moment.''
The lawsuit alleging negligence and infliction of emotional distress was filed against Pollari, the Lakeland Babe Ruth League, its head coach and the Rockaway Borough Little League, where Pollari had previously coached. The judge has dismissed the Rockaway Borough Little League as a defendant.
|Kevin Babcock v. Michael Pollari|
Kevin Babcock sued Michael Pollari for assault and batter and emotional distress. Babcock claimed that when he was 13-years-old, he questioned the fairness of a running drill during a practice at Morris Hills High School. He further alleged that Pollari, an assistant coach for the Lakeland Babe Ruth League, grabbed him by the front of his shirt... More... $55,000 (10/15/2005 - NJ ) 55000
How much is an emotional scar worth? That's what a Morris County jury would have to decide if it finds that a Rockaway baseball coach's assault of a 13-year-old player in 2001 traumatized him and stripped him of his love of team sports. A jury of five women and one man began deliberating late yesterday afternoon in the case of Kevin Babcock vs. Michael Pollari after hearing closing arguments in the weeklong civil trial. "They have a tough issue, determining if there was an emotional injury and, if there is, what that injury is worth," Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont said.
Prior to closing arguments, Dumont dismissed Walter Arlen, the head coach of Babcock's 2001 baseball team, as a defendant, and ruled the Lakeland Babe Ruth Baseball League had no direct culpability. The league, however, could still be on the hook to pay damages if the jury finds in Babcock's favor because Pollari was a coach for the league when the assault took place.
Pollari, 43, admitted that as an assistant coach, he lost his cool and grabbed Babcock by the shirt after the boy twice questioned a running drill during a May 2, 2001 practice at Morris Hills High School. A month later, in municipal court, Pollari was convicted of assaulting the seventh-grader. "He put the fear of God in a 13-year-old child," said Babcock's attorney, Richard Dunne. Soon after, Babcock ceased playing team sports, giving up baseball, football and track. "It was not appealing to me any more," the 17-year-old testified last week. He took up snowboarding and skateboarding.
Pollari's attorney, Adam Kenny, said jurors should question if that altercation caused the Rockaway teenager to suffer a psychological disorder, as claimed. Kenny presented evidence that the Babcocks' home life became strained when his father, William, lost his job in 1999. William Babcock began drinking and withdrew from family activities.
Kenny said that while Sandra Babcock testified in her son's case that her son had enjoyed a close, happy relationship with his father before the assault, that was contrary to what she told jurors in her husband's wrongful termination trial against Sears Roebuck & Co. last year.
"Sandra Babcock got trapped by the truth," Kenny said. At her husband's civil trial, she testified that even after her husband got a new job at Wal-Mart a few months later, she and her husband didn't get along well. "We were civil to each other, but it just wasn't the same," she had testified. They divorced in May 2002.
Dunne reminded the jurors that they heard no evidence that Kevin Babcock suffered emotional trauma from his father's firing. "That's just a red herring thrown in there just to mislead you," Dunne said. Dunne suggested that if there were trouble at home, that might have fueled Babcock's love for sports, and losing that passion because of Pollari's actions would have made the loss even greater.
While psychologist Lois Steinberg testified that Kevin Babcock suffered an adjustment disorder with anxiety after the assault, Kenny said Steinberg never asked if anything else was going on in the home at the time that might be troubling the teenager. The jury will resume deliberations this morning. Sandra Babcock had also been a plaintiff in the case but Dumont ruled that under state law she could not be compensated for loss of companionship. She had testified that she loved watching her son play team sports and missed that.
Sounds like standard adolescent sports stuff to me. A kid mouths off about not wanting to do something the coach told him to do, the coach gets hot under the collar and grabs the kid. Ninety-nine percent of kids at that point go off and do as they are told, and there the incident ends. This kid and his mom sound like a couple of tailor-made Dem "victim" types.
The testosterone poisoned among us might think that a coach is empowered to rough up a 13 year-old but that is something they can save for the pro's
Gave up baseball for skateboarding, graffiti, and smoking dope. But what if one of his friends shouts at him? Will he be able to sue?
Not all skateboarders smoke pot.In fact, my son told me it is stupid because of the balance necessary to perform! Skateboarders cannot drink or smoke pot if they want to excel.I don't like the idea that because a teen chooses skateboarding over a traditional sport, they must be a doper.JMHO. Yes, maybe I am a little sensitive on this topic.
On the other hand, this suit is ridiculous.The mother sounds lke a real winner or should I say whiner?
Are teachers allowed to raise their voice at Precious?
Honestly, parents like you are the ones running up to school when someone looks cross-eyed at little Precious. Now these losers are going to sue and some liberal judge is going to let them.
wow, glad you're not a coach.
Gee, I should have sued my football coach when he pulled on my face mask and shouted at me. Scarred me for life.
"Gosh, you guys look so nice in these uniforms today. What do yoiu say we run some sprints? . . . Oh, come on!!! PLEASE!!!!! ....Don't you want to get in shape? . . . Babcock, are you still sitill sitting on the ground, honey? . . . I'll let you play this week if you do some running . . . OK, OK, OK, let's put out the cigarettes and stop horsing around... We'll start with some slow walking. . . No?"
How can we make up our minds about this when you didn't post his record. Sheesh.
He picked him up by the shirt when he wouldn't run and you make it sound like child molestation! Give me a break! Weren't you ever in high school sports? I've had much worse and didn't cry to Mommy. But that was football not ASA softball.
Good point, bkepley. I did a search and could find no won-lost record for Lakeland. So I guess we'll have to hold off judgment until we get our hands on those stats.
Plus, if the drill was to learn to pitch left handed, I think the kid owes the coach a big apology.
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